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Canadian foreign minister speaks out over fraud

Canada's foreign Minister John Baird gestures during a news conference with his Algerian counterpart Ramtane Lamamra, unseen, after talks on regional security and counterterrorism, in Algiers, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013. Baird is calling Syria's offer to begin providing information on its chemical arsenal 30 days after it signs an international convention banning such weapons "ridiculous and absurd." (AP Photo/ Sidali Djarboub)

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) -- Canada's foreign minister spoke out against corruption Sunday during a visit to Algeria where a Canadian engineering and construction company is being investigated over charges that it awarded contracts in exchange for bribes.

Speaking at a joint news conference with his Algerian counterpart in Algiers, Foreign Minister John Baird said the case involving SNC-Lavalin is not representative of "all Canadian businesses, which give huge importance to ethics," according to Algeria's official state news agency.

Baird later tweeted that "any party who is found to have broken the law will be judged under the law."

But Baird added in another tweet that he indicated in Algiers that SNC-Lavalin now "has new leadership and a new way of doing business, focused on ethics."

"Canadian companies by and large represent Canada well abroad, and we are encouraged by the changes SNC continue to make," Baird tweeted.

Baird said that Canada was determined to fight corruption, and added that his country recently adopted an anti-corruption law.

In Montreal, SNC-Lavalin spokeswoman Leslie Quinton said in a statement that "the company has taken a number of measures over the past year to reshape the company's ethical culture."

She said these include outside expert testing, agreeing to external verification, internal audits and co-operating with authorities on allegations against certain individuals.